Why a Business Case is a key for success of your project?

Why a Business Case is a key for success of your project?

magine (and I know it is purely hypothetical situation that never happens in real life) you as project manager in the project without goal, justification or any direction the project should be heading too. It is possible to finish project like this, it is possible even to call it "a success story”. But is it really what you looking for, as project manager. Now look at it from owner perspective. You invest in project – and you don’t know where money goes, what you want, and how much you want to earn.

Sounds like nightmare doesn’t it. But is it really such a hypothetical situation. As far as costs and benefits are concerned – this is usually not a problem. Most of the project will have a kind of business case that includes both. The real challenge happens when project progresses. How many of project verify on regular basis the benefits/costs ratio. How many project verified the business case assumptions after the projects. And this is the key role of business case/project charter or whatever naming convention you use. This is this guidance given you to steer the project in the right directions. You as project manger, as product owner, but as team member too. It answers the most basic question: what is the purpose behind the project we work on.

In details the purpose of the business case is to outline the rationale for undertaking the project, and to define the parameters and management factors involved in the project itself. It provides the project manager with a tool to guide the design, management and evaluation of the project. The business case serves three purposes: it provides the project manager the opportunity to think through the project in a systematic, step-by-step manner; explains why the project should be undertaken; and provides a framework for completion of the project on time and on budget.

While the business case may be presented in various formats, there are certain elements to include in any written document.  Knowing why a business case is important becomes evident as the project develops.  Be sure to present the business case in a manner that will create a favorable impression on the program administrator.

Elements of a Business Case:

Title Page is the first impression a reader gets of a business case. Ensure it is simple, neat and orderly, easy to read and balanced.
Table of Contents lists the major headings and the page on which each is found.  This will be the last section completed, but is placed following the title page.
Executive or Project Summary is the first and most important selling tool. It is where the critical impression of the project is created.  Therefore it is important to summarise the most important elements of the project in a concise and compelling manner, and keep it to two pages at most.  Explain the reason for the project and what the benefits will be.
Mission Statement is a concise, general statement of what the project manager intends to achieve by completing the project. In one sentence it explains what is to be done, for whom, and why.
Objectives of the Project must be stated clearly; one short statement for each, without accompanying arguments or documentation.  Objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (S.M.A.R.T.).
Performance Measures evaluate the success of the project, by indicating how the project will meet the objectives listed at the beginning of the business case. Financial Plan shows how the project will be financed and how returns, if any, will be credited. Give an explanation of why program funding is necessary and how funds will be used in the introductory paragraph.
Understanding why a complete business case is so important helps to develop the project plan.  It also shows that the project management has thought through the entire project thoroughly. The managers will be confident the right decision has been made, and that designated people are in charge of each step of the process.

Next step would be to verify the Business Case assumptions. This sounds like risky business  - anyone who is involved may be interested to prove another success story. However if organisation as such is able to find identify and save the team and product owner who says "this project makes no sense” this means the organisation is mature. There is always other project o invest and money – why sell yourself short?

Jerzy

If you believe you have interesting opinion about the subject no matter if you agree or dissagree  - contact me: jerzy.wachala@agilopolis.com